Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Southeast Asia hard hit by climate change



Southeast Asia hard hit by climate change

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cars partially submerged during a flood in Shah Alam district in the Malaysian state of Selangor on December 21, 2021. AFP

Southeast Asia hard hit by climate change

Southeast Asia is among the regions of the world hardest hit by climate change, and is especially at risk of losing settlements and infrastructure to sea-level rise, a major new report published on February 28 has shown.

“With ongoing global warming, today’s children in South and Southeast Asia will witness increased losses in coastal settlements and infrastructure due to flooding caused by unavoidable sea-level rise, with very high losses in East Asian cities,” said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The report also concluded that if global warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, the impacts of climate change could be more severe, and some will be irreversible.

“Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements,” said the IPCC report.

But limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will help the world avoid harsher climate impact, scientists say.

Rising sea levels expert Benjamin Horton from the Nanyang Technological University’s Earth Observatory of Singapore said the greatest effects of rising sea levels will be felt in Asia, due to the number of people living in the continent’s low-lying areas.

For example, mainland China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand are home to the most people on land that is projected to be below average annual coastal flood levels by 2050, Horton said.

“Together, those six nations account for roughly 75 per cent of the 300 million people on land facing the same vulnerability at mid-century,” he added.

The IPCC report also found that risks to coastal cities and settlements are projected to increase by “at least one order of magnitude” by 2100, if there are no significant plans to deal with the crisis.

Rising sea levels are not the only threat confronting Southeast Asia.

Climate scientist Winston Chow from the Singapore Management University, one of the authors involved in the report, said ASEAN has already been exposed to many climate change-related impacts, such as floods, droughts, urban heat as well as biodiversity and habitat losses.

“These current impacts are projected to worsen in the future, especially when global surface temperatures exceed the threshold of 1.5 deg Celsius,” Chow said.

The world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times.

At this level of warming, some climate impacts are already locked in and considered close to irreversible in some natural ecosystems, such as the long-term decline of coral reefs in the South China Sea, said Chow.

He added that a warmer Earth could mean that parts of ASEAN dependent on water from glacial melt – such as cities along the upper Mekong – would likely have reduced freshwater resources, due to the loss of ice there.

Crop yields could also be reduced if the world gets warmer, and other climate-driven events such as floods, droughts and tropical cyclones could further affect yield,” said Chow.

If cities and countries want to reduce such climate risks, then adaptation is essential to minimise future loss and damages, he added.

Adaptation refers to measures that countries can take to reduce the impacts of climate-driven events on societies, while loss and damage is a term used in climate change discussions that refers to climate impacts that societies are currently suffering which cannot be, or have not been, reduced by adaptation efforts.

For rising sea levels, for example, adaptation measures could include building sea walls or restoring mangroves, since these ecosystems have tangled root systems that can keep pace with rising sea levels to an extent.

Or to reduce flooding in urban areas, an adaptation strategy could include having land-use planning policies that discourage buildings in areas exposed to floods or cyclones, Chow said.

THE STRAITS TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a